I was born and raised in Suriname, the most forest-covered nation in the world, with 98% tree cover. “Nature Deficit Disorder” —a term that author Richard Louv coined to describe how being disconnected from nature can harm health — was not something I needed to worry about growing up. However, it plagued me non-stop after moving to the concrete jungles of Miami during my adolescence and attending a middle school that had no windows, looked like a warehouse, and felt like a giant freezer.
Children, teens, and adults in industrialized societies are even more cooped up and disconnected from the natural world today than we were decades ago. We now reach for our smartphones and laptops to do almost everything — from completing work to reading to buying groceries. Stay-at-home restrictions and ongoing lockdowns have only made the disconnect from the natural world more striking.
In his 2012 book, The Nature Principle, Louv claimed that we must learn to reconnect with nature for the sake of our well-being as a species. He claims that “The future will belong to the nature-smart — those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need. ”
Ten years later, the question remains: Do we stand a chance at a nature-smart future? Will our collective addiction to technology worsen over time, or could the pain of losing our human-nature connection lead us back to the outdoors?